Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Nonprofit Career Conference

Opportunity Knocks and the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network put on a Nonprofit Career Conference in Oakland yesterday.The event was designed for nonprofit professionals seeking to advance their career and for-profit/corporate professionals looking to switch careers to the nonprofit sector. Several good organizations sponsored the conference including the Foundation Center and California State University East Bay.

There were four workshops each lasting 75 minutes on the agenda along with brief consultations for resumes. carer paths, personal finance and volunteering. The cost was $99 and over 100 people attended which ran from 8:00 to 4:30. With all this on the plate one would think this was a perfect recipe for a successful event for attendees.

Not Quite.

There was confusion early before the workshops started at 9:00 as a large number of people wanted to get that free ten review of their resume or career guidance that the small hallway was jammed. Meanwhile another line tried to filter over to get financial advice. With about ten Counselors offering their services, this seemed to be the biggest attraction. Finally after the area was really overcrowded one of the volunteers ran some masking tape along the floor to get two lines , one for resume advice and one for career advice. It would have made better sense to assign ten minute time slots to everyone in advance, but the program said first-come first-served and we know how those situations sometimes turn out. Lots of complaining and grumbling.

When it was my turn of course the counselor said my resume needed some work, even though it has been worked on twice by professionals in the past two years. I am sure if I went around the room everyone would say the same thing.

The first workshop attended covered career paths. There was another one going on at the same time and then they repeated so spread out the attendees and give you a chance to attend all four. Other than the presenters impressive background I found little to write on my notebook as we all know how hard jobs are to come by in this economy.

The second workshop an overview of how a nonprofit is organized and various positions available. The charts on the projector looked the same as they do in the for profit sector, with one addition. Volunteers. Like in the corporate world you can work your way up the ladder of success.

There was a lunch break and then it was back to that line to see those resume writers. This sure drew a crowd again. There were also school with class schedules, a writer showcasing a book ( I mean have you ever attended a conference where there was not someone selling a book?)

the third workshop touched on resume writing, job searches and interviewing. I would call it a basic 101 workshop. There was far too much time spent on an example resume of a recent college graduate, which did not fit the bill of the vast majority of people there. On a projector we got a glimpse of indeed and linkedin as if this was breaking news to job seekers. Navigating around linkedin on a projector does not work well in a class as it is hard to see especially in the back. Speaking of the back there were not enough chairs and several people had to sit on tables or as we referred to them "bleacher seats."

The fourth workshop touched on the challenges nonprofits face in these rough times. More of a lecture the instructor stressed how important nonprofits are to the community and the economy.

The conference could have been so much better.

At the start of each workshop the standard practice of everyone just stating their name and organization should have been done, which gives a sense of community. For the ten minute consultations everyone should have been given a time slot. There were people that had to leave early that did not get a chance to take advantage of this. At a fee of $99 and on a hot day there should have been water there. There were two fountains that had the usual trickle of h2o coming out.

With time being a factor in a workshop, ALL questions should be held of until the end of the session. They should not get the instructor off track. (I know, I was guilty of that too.) For people wanting to transition from the for profit to the nonprofit sector, there were really no examples or guidance there. Well, I guess that was why all those resume writers were there.

When I got home there was an email from Opportunity Knocks asking me to take a survey. This arrived interesting enough at 2:03 while I was still in a workshop.
Opportunity Knocks had a great chance to knock one out of the ballpark for the conference. Instead it popped up a weak fly to the infield.

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